To begin this post, I will quote a famous journalist:
How dispiriting to see, once again, the footage of theocratic rage in Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif. The same old dreary formula: self-righteous frenzy married to a neurotic need to take offense; the easy resort to indiscriminate violence and cruelty; the promulgation of makeshift fatwas by mullahs on the make; those writhing mustaches framing crude slogans of piety and hatred, and yelling for death as if on first-name terms with the Almighty. The spilling of blood and the spoliation of property - all for nothing, and ostensibly “provoked” by the corny, brainless antics of a devout American nonentity, notice of whose mere existence is beneath the dignity of any thinking person.
You’ve probably already guessed that this isn’t about the recent Koran burnings by U.S. soldiers at Bagram Airfield, a NATO base in Afghanistan, which - of course - resulted in violence and deadly retaliation.
No this article was written by Christopher Hitchens last year in response to the violence in Afghanistan over a Florida minister’s similarly offensive practice of torching the Koran. I quote that particular article because it seems to frame the situation in a fairly similar fashion. Take out the brainless pastor in Gainesville, Florida and replace him with soldiers and you have evidence of basically the same form of religious tension.
Now, for those of you who may be saying, but protests should be expected in a situation like this, it should be noted that five days have elapsed since the inciting event, and so far, four deaths have been recorded. Taliban forces have encouraged people to attack the NATO compound, and that is exactly what has happened.
The reason for the book burning, at least according to military officials is that “they had had ‘extremist inscriptions’ on them and there was ‘an appearance that these documents were being used to facilitate extremist communications.’” A BBC article said that “US personnel apparently inadvertently put the books into a rubbish incinerator at Bagram air base, near Kabul.” If this is true, then it is an understandable reason for taking care of the books. If not a symbolic but a practical burning of the admittedly religious books took place, then cannot that be forgiven? Not according to religious people, as Hitchens put it, yearning to be offended.
I’ll go on quoting Hitchens here, from the article he wrote for Slate last year:
But the ambitions of Islamic fundamentalists are ultimately unappeasable. Already in Egypt they have launched vicious physical attacks on people suspected of harboring prostitutes or selling beer, as if either of these considerations had any bearing on the radical overhaul of a near-failed state. I don’t believe in the long run the Salafists can quite negate the work of the Tahrir movement, but the terrible thing about indiscriminate violence and religious hysteria is how much damage a little of it can do. One determined sectarian can, in a nights work, undo decades of coexistence between Christians and Muslims, or between Sunni and Shia, as the deadly work of the Bin Ladenists in several countries has recently confirmed.
According to the New York Times, “A few of the protesters were waving the Taliban’s white flag, some wore head wrappings bearing the jihad slogan ‘I sacrifice myself,’ and protesters throughout the city shouted ‘Death to America.’” This should underline the weight of the mission U.S. forces have in Afghanistan. To be able to counter such extreme protests in an attempt to win “the hearts and minds” of the country, as well as the physical war, it will take a lot more than an apology from President Obama to set things right.
(Source: The New York Times)